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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
In Memoriam for Memorial Day

 

As I write this, it's early Friday afternoon and I'm just back from running errands and I'm about to start preparations for a House ritual tomorrow and my Memorial Day observances Monday.  When I was out and about today, several people wished me 'happy holiday' and you know, we all work hard, and I understand the anticipation of a three day weekend, or an unexpected day off, so I returned the greeting but I couldn't help but think "this isn't  a holiday. It's so much more than that." and I wonder if anyone gives any thought anymore to what Memorial Day is really about. 

Memorial Day is a big deal in my devotional world. For those who may not know, it's a day in the US  specifically set aside to honor all those who died while serving in the armed forces. It used to be called Decoration Day, and people would go to military cemeteries, or the section of cemeteries set aside for the military dead and decorate the tombstones with flags, wreaths, and flowers. Now, we have bar-b-qs and go shopping and maybe watch a parade. I find that sad. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Are the Norse Gods Racist?

Today I was chatting with my colleague Ochani Lele (who will be appearing on Wyrd Ways Radio on June 5), author of "Sacrificial Ceremonies of Santeria: A Complete Guide to the Rituals and Practices," "Diloggun Tales of the Natural World," and several other books.  We were discussing our respective Holy Powers when he asked me a question that made me stop and, after answering it, ask him if he'd mind me using it as a question here.   During the course of our conversation, he said to me: 

"You know . . . having Jewish blood, I've always been a bit afraid of Norse religion. Just out of curiosity, how do you think your gods would react to someone with Jewish blood taking up their worship? Would they respond? Would they accept? What about an African, or an African American? How would the Norse gods respond to such a person? Are they beyond racial boundaries, like the Orishas? I'm assuming they would be . . . but assumptions often get me in trouble. What are your thoughts on that?"

 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Alfar
    Alfar says #
    I will not debate this issue, and I myself am no raving racist. However, I believe we are being simplistic when we attempt to asse
  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    Fortunately, mainstream Asatru largely addressed these issues years ago, with the general consensus that "folkish" is not, in fact
General Deity Questions, Fandom Gone Wrong, and "Pray, Forrest, Pray!"

 

Well, the school term is finally, officially over, I've submitted my last essay exam, and now I am free and clear as a bird, almost. I'm at least free and clear enough that I can catch up on some of the Odin and/or Deity questions that have accrued while i've been battling through finals the last two weeks. As I know i've noted before, I'm really enjoying the questions that are coming in. I think these are conversations we need to be having. Moreover, I"m forced to really engage with my own practice, and think and analyze what I do and how i approach my practice much more consciously and I think that's a good thing. Nothing in devotion should ever become so rote that we forget why we're doing it!

 

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  • Danielle Aubenque
    Danielle Aubenque says #
    Thank you for clearly articulating a struggle I have had for years. It gives me hope that I am not alone in my feelings toward the
  • Ainslie
    Ainslie says #
    I suspect Paganism is being used as "Atheism lite" by many people who really need to become Atheists.
  • Tim Schneider
    Tim Schneider says #
    For me this is pretty simple. It is about having standards, not being elitist or mean. It is about demanding respect for the God
Yet Another Round of Odin Questions

 

People seem to be enjoying the Odin questions that I"ve been answering here. I'm happy to keep this Q&A series going as long as folks have questions. Many of these things, while I've thought about them and internalized them, I've never actually broken down and analyzed for anyone else, so this is making me look at my experience and my practices and the way i interact with the Gods in new ways too and that's useful to praxis. 

On that note, Liza asks: 

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  • Liza
    Liza says #
    Thank you for answering my questions here. I think that sometimes these are the things that people just don't talk about in genera
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Christine, I am glad this article was able to help. I know that when I went through my first fallow period with Odin it was withou
  • Christine L Berger
    Christine L Berger says #
    Galina, thank you so much for this post. I am six months into the fallow period after last summer which was the period of intimat
Questions about Odin - Round 3 "A Matter of Pride"

I''m so glad readers are taking the time to post or email me their questions. I enjoy writing about Odin, and each question that i've received has given me a great deal of food for thought. I like that; I like engaging with anything that makes me think. Perhaps it's an Odinic trait, hmmm? 

Over on my personal blog, http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog.html, Visons from Afar recently asked a question that caused me to sit back and really think for quite awhile before sitting down to type this out. Visons asks about pride, and how to differentiate between good and bad pride in one's engagement with the Holy Powers and this is a good question, not only because Heathenry puts a tremendous cachet on expressing pride for one's worthy deeds, but also because this is something that I'm willing to bet most of us have wrestled with at some point or another.  I'm going to take a stab at answering it here and I encourage my readers to offer your own advice and insights here as well. 

Visions from Afar asks: 

"Where is the line between pride (we're Norse, and we're expected to have pride in accomplishments and ourselves, right?), and disrespectful arrogance/impiety? I ask because more than once He's called me "quite rude"."

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  • Liza
    Liza says #
    My first thought too was that if Odin called me "quite rude" I might actually die on the spot of embarrassment. That is likely tru
  • Brea Saunders
    Brea Saunders says #
    There is profound and wise content here that stands alone no matter one's dieties, thank you for writing it I'm grateful for havin
  • Carl
    Carl says #
    Thank you, it's just what I needed to hear.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Questions on Odin - Round 2

 

 

Continuing my thread of answering reader questions, today I'm going to be tackling a rather interesting question from Christopher who asks: 

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Another Question on Piety from a Reader

 

In response to my call for questions, Trine asked me the following: 

"Why do you think humans bicker so much about the "right way" of pleasing the Gods (through ritual, devotional practice, etc.)? Is it because the Gods (in their mysterious ways) ask something different of each person, and sometimes what they ask and expect of one person is the complete opposite of that of another person? Or is it rather the result of human arrogance and ego? I feel it can be both, but having no experience really with spirit work and what it's like to carry out these duties, I'm not really sure. "

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  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    That's a brilliant question and I want to take a little while to think about it. I'll answer to the best of my ability but it may
  • Candi
    Candi says #
    I have a question: If there's such a thing as pagan piety, is there such a thing as pagan sacrelige, and what form would it take?
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    I had to sit with this for a few long moments before responding because I was having a strong emotional response to the use of the

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Questions on Piety from a Reader

In my previous post, I promised that if people wanted to ask me questions about my practice or about the way I express piety in my devotional life, I would be more than happy to answer them. Liza broke the ice and asked the following three questions, which I found very insightful, so I decided to tease them out into their own separate post. 

 

Liza: For the newbie, young's, seeker without a physical community to lead them, how do you suggest they start? (Though I suspect I know this answer in part, I think it bears repeating)

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  • Liza
    Liza says #
    Thank you, BTW, for thinking out these questions to give answers. I've had a busy week, and I am now only catching up on reading a
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Trine, thank you for your question. I just answered it in my most recent post. Go and take a look. These are good questions, fol
  • Trine
    Trine says #
    Thanks for opening up for questions - this one has been on my mind for a while. Maybe there's no answer to it (and maybe it's too

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Yet More on Piety

 

In a comment to my previous article, Anne Niven wrote: 


"But anytime we start getting into defining "piety" I start to twitch. I believe that there's absolutely no "right" way to serve the gods. Why? Because I believe that only personal gnosis can impart that information. And personal gnosis is just that -- personal. Which is to say, what's pious for you is, indeed, pious -- for you. But it might not be pious for me. In fact, what's pious for you might very well be *impious* in my relationship to the very same deity."

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  • Tannim Wolfkin
    Tannim Wolfkin says #
    Just finished writing a paper on hubris for my English class and came across this post. Wish I had read it before finishing the da
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Thank you, Laura. I think you may be on to something with the way our society devalues service. In Heathenry, part of it is also t
  • Laura P
    Laura P says #
    Thank you again for writing about piety, a subject all too often overlooked in modern paganism. To me piety means respect, love an

Over on The Wild Hunt, Teo Bishop has made an interesting proposition: he would like to crowdsource Pagan theology in anticipation of an upcoming conference presentation. People are encouraged to post their personal Pagan theology in the comments section, on their blogs, and on Twitter. 

When I have to use any kind of terminology at all, I define my personal theoilogy (not theology, thank you) as polytheistic panentheism. Translation: I acknowledge the existence of a multitude of autonomous Powers which are simultaneously inherent/manifest within creation and transcendent/beyond creation. Some Powers are intimately interwoven with creation -- for instance, the dryad who lives and dies with her tree. Other Powers manifest within but are not as tightly bound to creation -- Athena, for instance, with Her ties to olive trees and owls and serpents, is also connected to "higher" qualities such as wisdom and creativity. And I do mean multitude; how many Powers have existed since before the beginning or been born in the interim I dare not even guess.

There is no one book which completely and perfectly explicates my personal theoilogy. (I am sure the same is true for many people.) There are, however, quite a few books which have informed my theoilogy, supplying bits and pieces here and there, clarifying points of confusion, helping me to develop it over the years. 

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Ritual, Monotheism, and Again with the Piety

 Seriously, folks, argue and disagree with me all you want, but do so based on what i say, not the misinterpretations you project onto what I say. I find it particularly interesting that in the course of the comments to my two articles on ritual (both those posted and those I received privately), quite often I'm being accused of everything BUT promoting piety and respect in ritual. Why is that such a difficult and challenging concept? It certainly wasn't for our ancestors. Piety was a central concept to the majority of ancient polytheisms, though of course the words used to describe this behavior varied from culture to culture. Plato, for instance, wrote an entire dialogue ("Euthyphro") in which the definition of piety was the central issue under discussion. The ancient Romans considered it a necessary and sacred virtue and one simply cannot read writers like Cicero, Pliny, or Seneca (to name but a few) without finding exhortation after exhortation to pious behavior both within one's temples and without. Why is it so difficult for us moderns? Because it is. I don't quite know why, though I have my suspicions, but it really is.(1) 

Unlike Plato, who had his character Euthyphro define piety in part as 'what is dear to the gods,' i would, in addition, define it as 'right behavior toward the Gods.' Piety is a curb and a guide to our behavior.  Of course, right behavior implies precisely that: that there is a right and wrong way of behaving, that there are standards. Standards do not imply tyrannical theocracy. They imply behaving properly and mindfully as the occasion and interaction demands. Now I've written about the opposite of piety here: http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2012/05/pagan-blog-project-i-is-for-impiety.html for those who might want to take a peek. I'm going to let that stand and speak for itself, because there actually is a right way of doing things and it's not that difficult to figure out.  You know what else? The Gods and ancestors are more than capable of telling us what it is if we do the work and listen. Of course that might lead us to a reordering of our priorities but c'est la vie.

Piety, by the way, is a far, far different thing from orthodoxy. In nothing that I wrote on ritual, did i demand any particular orthodoxy beyond piety and respect.  I did not mention what Gods people should honor.(2) I did not exhort readers to any particular ritual style or practice. It's not about any specific action or belief. It's about attitude and awareness, about the way we approach our Gods and ancestors. By exhorting piety, i'm not demanding that everyone become a mystic. I'm saying that we should behave with proper decorum and respect when in the presence of the sacred. What it comes down to, I suspect, is that many people simply don't *want* to be pious. They don't want to be respectful. They don't want their spiritual world to revolve around anything but themselves. Otherwise instead of bitching when I mention piety, we could start talking about ways to show it; because really,  if right behavior toward the Powers isn't valued in our communities, then what is? That's the seed from which all good things flower. 

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  • helmsman of inepu
    helmsman of inepu says #
    I think you're right about "the filter." You even see it operating with "Evangelical" atheists- it's not enough for them not to be
  • Ainslie
    Ainslie says #
    Paganisms of the world are diverse. Galina's a particular person doing particular work in a particular context. Some of that conte
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Oh dear. I really wasn't gonna jump back into this, but feel I've been pulled in by reference. So I'll speak up and say, "me, me!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
More on Ritual Praxis

 

So my recent Heathen Heretic article and its reception  (both of which you may find here: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Paths-Blogs/beltane-offerings-not-the-post-i-intended-to-write.html)  led me to a certain epiphany with regard to the way so many of us approach ritual. Let me begin by saying that I'm always surprised when people purposely, or so it often seems, miss the point of my articles. A colleague recently pointed out that much of my writing provokes people past their comfort zones and that too rather surprised me: that people would draw lines against experience and narrow their worlds down to such small, grey places. Oh well. we do and everything in our world encourages us to do this so I guess i shouldn't be surprised. Still, there is nothing in my practice that should be radical to someone engaged in deep devotion with their Gods. Nothing. 

So when my call for respect and piety as part of the ritual process raised such a din, I was rather surprised. Then I realized, that as with so much else, it all comes down to what one determines is the purpose of ritual. It's more than just determining to place the Gods at the center of the experience, though that is a huge part of it, rather it's understanding why we are doing any of this ritual "stuff" in the first place. What's the point? Whom does it benefit? Obviously I believe it's if not crucial, at least desirable or I wouldn't be doing it. I think we forget that there are two sides of the equation in any ritual process: the human side and the Other (Gods, ancestors). The ritual itself is a conversation, ideally a dance between those two factions. It's a means of communication and experience. I suspect that's what makes rituals that are focused on the Gods so threatening to some: they put something greater than we above the sum total of our limited human experience. They connect us with that Other. 

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  • Candi
    Candi says #
    "Why does this imparting their own morality or decision making process as a mean to judge others need be a negative? If experience
  • Candi
    Candi says #
    I forgot to mention that there are rituals out there that don't involve the Gods. They involve personal transformation. That b
  • Tim Schneider
    Tim Schneider says #
    "That being said, when I see or hear the words "[blank] should be [x]," a red flag goes up. I respectfully wish to relate that whe
Beltane Offerings- Not the Post I Intended to Write

I recently posted a question on my Facebook, asking what recipes and dishes folks would suggest be made as offerings to Freya for Beltane. Cooking for the Gods, cooking up offerings is such a sacred rite in and of itself, and I can't help but wonder if our ancestors didn't have certain traditional foods or customary dishes (beyond roast pig)  that were prepared for the various Powers. If they did, of course, we've lost that knowledge, but that doesn't mean that over time we won't regain it through the wisdom of our ancestors and inspiration of our Deities nor does it mean that we shouldn't give thought to what might please the various Gods and Goddesses the best right now. I very strongly believe that it's by engaging in devotion and working hard to strengthen the tradition and restore the lineage that such knowledge will be returned to us.  Devotion is a powerful teacher in and of itself. So as I'm planning my House's Beltane celebration, I wanted to find out what foods other people customarily made for Freya at this time of year.

 

I had hoped (expected even) to get suggestions of specific dishes and some folks did come through to some extent. I came away from the conversation with a number of ideas that I wouldn't otherwise have had and which I"ll share with you at the end of this article. Unexpectedly, however, the conversation also highlighted yet another aspect of the devotional deficit so prevalent in contemporary Heathenry. I was really bowled over, though I suppose I shouldn't have been.

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  • sannion
    sannion says #
    I think you're misunderstanding my point, which is very easy to do with this imprecise medium of communication. So, to clarify,
  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer says #
    I have a fairly new practice and am still working out a lot of things. It's very helpful to have writers like Galina and Sannion g
  • Laura P
    Laura P says #
    Why is it so controversial to love and respect the Gods and put the proper emphasis on the need to serve them well? It baffles me,

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Title: The Horned Altar: Rediscovering and Rekindling Canaanite Magic

Publisher: Llewellyn

Author: Tess Dawson

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
News and Updates

 

I'm currently working on a new article (after way too long a hiatus, I know) and if all goes well, I'll have that for you next week. There are a number of issues and topics that have caught my attention, I have a few projects in the works,  plus I still owe the final article in my 'honoring city spirits' series.  That's all in progress and i'm hoping to post weekly  now that my school term is nearly finished,  but in the meantime, i wanted to make a brief announcement.

 

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Title: The Legend of Bold Riley

Publisher: Northwest Press

Creator: Leia Weathington

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

A few months back, I posted my suggestions for great science fiction with strong Pagan/polytheist themes; or, at least those that are Pagan/polytheist friendly.

Well, since then I have found one more book that can be added to the list: The Wreck of the Nebula Dream by Veronica Scott. Think of this as the Titanic in space. But with aliens. And a hot Special Forces hero. And a tattooed priest/assassin. And the characters are all polytheist. :)

Nebula Dream is set in the distant future, long after humanity has migrated out into the stars. Along the way, new Gods and Goddesses and spirits were encountered (or came to be), new religions developed, new human cultures evolved. The primary Deities in this particular story are the Lords of Space, the Red Lady, and the White Lady. The theoilogy of the Lords of Space is not explored in depth, but they seem to be protective Deities, with a special affinity for space travelers (d'uh) and the military; our hot Special Forces hero, Captain Nick Jameson, prays to them frequently throughout the story to keep everyone safe and to give him the strength to go on when he is exhausted and in pain.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Romance as a literary genre is only slightly easier to define than science fiction or fantasy. To paraphrase Wikipedia, the genre focuses on the relationship and romantic love between characters, with an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." Though most popular in English-speaking countries, romance is gaining in popularity around the world as more and more titles are translated into other languages. The genre has also splintered into a dozen or more subgenres (depending on where you draw the lines). Someone looking for happily-ever-after can find it in an urban fantasy setting, or the far future, or the recent past, or via time travel, or with witches and angels thrown into the mix. Romance has also evolved from its original heterosexual, monogamous (usually Caucasian) character set to feature same-sex protagonists, menage a trois, aliens with unusual body parts, shapeshifters, cyborgs -- well, you name it.

Unfortunately, a solid Pagan subgenre has yet to develop. Sure, there are lots and lots and lots of romance novels and novellas and short stories out there which feature magical protagonists. Just type "paranormal romance" into Amazon or B&N and you'll see what I mean. Just because a book features a witch or a lightning bolt-wielding God, however, does not make it Pagan- or polytheist-friendly. I have read far, far too many romance novels in which the Wiccan main character could not recite the Wheel of the Year, the magic was ridiculously flashy and over the top, the Gods were gigantic jokes, and the theoilogy nonexistent. Too often, references to "The Goddess" or "The Gods" are just throw away lines with no real spirituality or faith behind them.

Fortunately, while an official Pagan subgenre may not have developed yet, there are a few romance novels out there which will please a polytheist audience.* Or, at least, they pleased this polytheist audience. So, in alphabetical order:

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Last time, I talked about how Jungian archetypes, far from being mere metaphors for natural and psychological processes, can accurately be described as "gods".  In this post, I want to discuss how the experience of Jung's archetypes closely resembles Polytheists' descriptions of their encounter with the gods. 

It is not uncommon for Pagans to draw on Jung’s concept of archetypes to explain the nature of Pagan deities.  Polytheists*, however, often reject Jungian or archetypal explanations of the gods because they seem reductive, and such explanations do not seem to account for the Polytheistic experience of the gods as “actual beings with independence, volition, and power”.  When Polytheists hear the gods described as archetypes, they may hear the speaker telling them that it is "all in your head".  In addition, talk about “archetypes” can seem abstract, which is inconsistent with the Polytheists' experience of the gods in all their specificity.  For example, the "Mother archetype" may not evoke the same devotion among Polytheists as the goddesses Demeter or Kali do. 

But is Jung’s theory of the archetypes really inconsistent with the experience Polytheists?  Is it possible that the archetypes have been misunderstood by many Polytheists and Pagans alike? 

Jung in dialogue with the archetypes

The way that many Pagans have applied Jung’s theories does admittedly render a divinity which is psychologized and abstract.  But Jung’s own description of the experience of the archetypes was very different.  Jung engaged his unconscious through a technique called “active imagination”, which he also taught to his patients.  Active imagination involves inducing a kind of trace or “twilight consciousness”, of the type which we experience just before falling asleep -- a waking dream, if you will.  Then Jung would attempt to consciously interact with the images that emerged. 

In his semi-autobiographical, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung writes about how he would dialogue with archetypal images, like his "anima", a muse-like mediating archetype.  The fact that Jung would talk to the archetypal images of his unconscious, by itself, is not all the surprising; but the fact that the images responded to him -- actually talked back to him -- is surprising.  (Jung admitted that he sometimes feared for his sanity.) 

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  • B. T. Newberg
    B. T. Newberg says #
    >Jung's concern, like in the others in the psychoanalytic school, would be with something influencing our behavior that we are not
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Jung said it is the project of several lifetimes.
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    I didn't mean to imply that he thought it could be avoided, just that the point is to work toward ever greater levels of conscious

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Honoring City Spirits - Part II

One of the first things I realized when I started honoring city spirits actively was A) how varied and individual their personalities are and B) there is a protocol for engaging with them, particularly as the relationship is first being established. Now that first point should have been a given for me; after all, as an animist it makes sense: spirits are individuals. I don't know why it came as such surprise to me that talking to New York City was different from talking to Paris who was different again from Venice or Washington or Berlin or Köln but it did. I suspect in my case, it was largely a matter of not having had much facility for sensing city spirits for a very long time and then suddenly finding myself able to engage. There was a real moment of cognitive disconnect to realize how much NYC had taken care of me and watched out after me when I'd been all but oblivious to his presence. Then there was the awareness that sometimes there isn't just one governing spirit in a city. New York City for instance has at least two: a spirit of NYC that I experience as male, and the spirit of Manhattan, a very angry (and justly so) Native spirit that reads to me as  female. We'll come back to that in a bit. Then of course each borough has its own spirit and each neighborhood within that.  It's a general rule of thumb in doing this work that the name of the spirit is the same as the name of the city, the name of the borough spirit is the name of the borough and so on.

 

My mentors when I began honoring city spirits were actually a city spirit herself (Paris) and a river spirit (the Seine). They introduced me to the fact that one could engage and gave me an introduction in doing so properly. They were surprisingly gentle (though Paris can be extremely formal and harsh, even dismissive, with those she does not deem worth her attention), perhaps because there was a family connection there through my adopted mom. I actually developed quite a crush on the Seine--he's a flirtatious, playful spirit of tremendous age and wisdom and quite beautiful. Yet he never came across as jaded to me and he was more than willing to chat and answer my questions. It was a good introduction.

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